Patient Responsibilities

You have a life-threatening disease. The doctors, nurses, and caretakers focus on helping you. They know what they have to do, but as the patient, what are your responsibilities? What can you do to help yourself and them overcome your illness? I want to share what we learned during my daughter's fight with cancer, hoping it may help others.


A patient’s world quickly fills with unfamiliar terms, procedures, and medical specialists. Fear becomes overwhelming, and you want someone to take over and fix you. You want things to change and become frustrated that some are out of your control. Focusing on those things in your control can benefit both your mental and physical health.


Find medical help you trust and believe in, and then follow their advice. Do the hard stuff like surgery, chemo, and physical therapy. Follow recommendations on eating, exercise, and rest. Ask for help to overcome any bad health habits. Be honest with your medical team, and don't keep secrets. Give them the information they need to provide the best care for you. Be thankful for their concern and help. These people are your lifeline, so treat them like they are saving your life because that's what they do.


Take ownership of your healthcare. Educate yourself by asking questions and repeat the answers, so you understand it clearly. Follow up on things that may slip through the cracks. Create a chronological list of everything that has happened concerning your health (surgery, medications, procedures, tests, etc.). Bring it with you to appointments, consultations, and the ER. It will quickly bring them up to speed on your issues. Be open and accurate with the information to help them help you.


Show appreciation to those who are helping you by practicing acts of kindness. Keep a smile on your face, love in your heart, and thank them for their help. Getting to know them and treating them like friends helps them connect with you and become your advocate. It makes their job more manageable, and often you get better care because of it. If you are getting good care, tell them. Everyone likes a compliment. If you are getting excellent care, tell their boss. 


Maintain a sense of humor. Laughter promotes physical health by triggering endorphins that make you feel better by relaxing muscles and decreasing pain. Laughter benefits your mental health by lowering anxiety and stress while improving mood and hope. Tell jokes, read funny books, and watch comedies. Reminisce with friends about comical things that happened in the past. Watch silly videos with puppies or kittens. Laugh at yourself.


Keep a positive attitude every day. List all the reasons you want to live and then set goals to see a child grow up or attend your grandchild’s wedding. Focus on a positive outcome for your loved ones. We all know someone who finds the good in things, so learn from their example. Have faith and belief in your team, yourself, and God.


My daughter was a warrior fighting with everything she had while keeping a belief that she would survive. I couldn't believe how strong and positive she was. She was often the strongest member of her team, and it made it so much easier for everyone around her. The days she struggled, she put a smile on her face and pretended she was okay. We helped her on difficult days, and God carried her through the worst days. She promised us she would never, ever give up, and she kept her promise. 


We crossed paths with many other patients and met both warriors and victims during our journey. The warriors did better. Don’t give up or feel sorry for yourself. You’ll be surprised how strong you can be if you take one day at a time and fight for your life. 


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